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Author Topic: Just how fast are we talking?  (Read 1356 times)

Posts: 1316

« on: May 22, 2008, 08:26:12 PM »

yeah, I learned morse code about 35 years ago, and remember most of it...sort of, but finally got licensed this year, no code requirements notwithstanding.

anyway, CW DX is what attracted me to the hobby, for the reasons of what one can do with QRP CW DX.

so now i tried copying the practice code on W1AW, 5 WPM, and remembered more than I had expected. I missed a few numerals and periods and "P" and "F" seem to be a problem.

what I noticed is that at such a slow speed, it is hard to keep concentrating. after about 40 words I was exhausted. mind you, I'm not ready to copy faster, or maybe I am, I don't know.

after that lengthy preface, here is my question.

just how fast do the superhams do CW? and I don't mean cheating with a PC and a sound card either.

whatever I do turns out better if I set goals.

so, HOW fast is, uh, "PRETTY FAST?"

or, what should my goal be?


Posts: 691

« Reply #1 on: May 22, 2008, 08:50:00 PM »

Setting a specific speed goal is sort of self-defeating, and likely to be very frustrating.

Speed is not the important thing!

More important, in my opinion, is that you try to develope a nice, clean fist and let speed take care of itself.

CW should be FUN, so just do whatever "speed" you are comfortable doing.

Crappy code at 35 wpm is nowhere as good a listen as a good fist at 10 wpm.

And remember, we all make mistakes (hi)!

73, Jim/k7unz


Posts: 18

« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2008, 09:01:21 PM »

Many people will give you many answers.  I'd say a person who can copy around 25 wpm has a grasp on it.  35 is fairly proficient operator, 45 and up is high speed.  And then there are the extraordinary folks who can copy in the 75 wpm range.

There are different methods of copy too.  Some can only copy on paper, others on a keyboard, others can copy in their head like reading a book.  Again, there are extraordinary folks who truly hear it as a second language and hear it like somebody has spoken to them without thinking about the letters and the words.

Here is a good text that covers this:

Posts: 1316

« Reply #3 on: May 23, 2008, 02:23:08 AM »

Thanks for the responses!

"More important, in my opinion, is that you try to develope a nice, clean fist and let speed take care of itself. "

That is a fundamentally important thing, such as playing a musical instrument--very similar to operating the rhythmic patterns of morse code! One of my classical guitar instructors told me you can have speed, accuracy and endurance. Pick any TWO! No doubt that applies to sending code.

For some reason I based my question on the premise of that concept and was therefore too vague in my original question. I should have specified my speed goal setting was for the purposes of receiving and not sending, but thanks for the wisdom of your statement, as I had not yet pondered my own sending skills! To date I've never sent any morse code further than audible distance.

Thanks also for the other response on copy speeds. I'm now setting two goals for receiving: 10 WPM copy by ARRL field day in June, maybe even on a GOTA station, and 20 WPM copy by end of 2008. Someone hold me too that, please. :-)

Those seem like reasonable goals. If they are too ambitious and I don't know that they are too high, then I might just achieve them.


PS I used to know semaphore too, also from the boy scouts, but that is another story. We first learned the letters I, E, O, C, N, S, T, and will never forget the first message sent to us: "snot is not nice." Turns out unknown to us an elderly woman who had worked in some sort of signal corps was surreptitiously watching our lesson. It so amused her that she burst out laughing. She came over and explained away our confusion at her response.


Posts: 1

« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2008, 02:31:12 AM »

everybody is diffrent

given the time most anybody can do 20 wpm

some ops peak out at around 25 wpm
some ops peak out at 45 wpm or higher

been a ham for over 40 year

no matter how much time
i put in
never got faster than  about 30 wpm
thats it

have friends that can copy 45 wpm
i will never hit that speed

don't worry about code speed
just enjoy using the mode

yours truly

Posts: 21764

« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2008, 09:20:03 AM »

I can copy about 60-70 wpm if it's perfectly sent, but I cannot send that fast and never could.

In my absolute prime I could send about 50 wpm pretty well with very few errors.  Now I'm down to about 45 wpm with few errors, but errors do occur.  If I want to send completely "error free" I have to drop down to about 40.  It's age creeping in.

Although, that's a bad excuse because some of the best "fists" I hear on the air today belong to guys a lot older than I am.  Bob W6BNB sends with a "bug" at about 50 wpm just fine, it sounds almost machine sent.  He's past 90 years old.  I imagine he, like many others, has probably been sending with that bug for 60+ years and just got really, really good at it...

Most of my "conversational" QSOs are at about 25 or 30 wpm.



Posts: 5

« Reply #6 on: June 23, 2008, 06:58:45 PM »

I think you have had some really nice replys to your post. It's amazing how versatile the cw ops can be. I have always thought that those with musical talent will excel at code. Code is music. The majority out there in hamdom are slugging along, and enjoying it, at an average of 20 to 25 wpm. I work the cw traffic nets daily and the average speed is 20 wpm. The so called high speed nets, that I am aware of, like H & B move along around 25 wpm. It's important to remember that traffic handling requires near perfect copy. Any station receiving copy will appreciate a slower speed and accurate fist rather than someone sending fast and making continual mistakes.  

Copying higher speeds in your head is great if you are content with the "gist of the conversation" and are not concerned with hard copy. And the majority of high speed rag chews are just that. Having fun, sending fast and hearing just enought to carry on the conversation.

Have fun with cw and eventually it will become an aquired language.


Posts: 1316

« Reply #7 on: July 08, 2008, 01:13:43 PM »

Thanks, and yes there were some great responses. Thanks to all.

I've done some copy practice with the pc and was surprised, shocked and/or pleased with the progress. In the next weekend or so I'll gather the confidence needed to attempt live contacts. (More importantly, I have to get the QTH HF-operational after recent home improvements!!)

I did tried the CW station on FD recently, and fortunately had two great club members doing the real head copy. The 20 or more WPM was just out of reach for me.

As far as sending, I've had some great local Elmering for true Iambic keying. Surprisingly, I'm finding copy progress easier than keying.

Am still shopping for a good keyer, and I now have a Kent iambic key. For some reason the Kent appeals to me more.
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